Top Ethiopia war hero Atakilti Berhe still in prison
Ethiomedia
October 7, 2009


Ethiopian soldiers
The triumphant Ethiopian soldiers who liberated Badme in 1999. A year later, they didn't know the man they left in the palace in Addis Ababa would work through the court for handing over of Badme to Eritrea.
ADDIS ABABA - Colonel Atakilti Berhe, a hero of the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea War who routed Eritrean forces and occupied the Western Eritrean town of Teseney two times, still remains in jail under the orders of Meles Zenawi, observers say.

To refresh the memory of readers, here's an excerpt how the London-based Independent captured the mood of the war at that particular time in the year 2000:

"A humanitarian catastrophe was unfolding in the Horn of Africa yesterday, with a million Eritreans fleeing from the invading Ethiopian army. In the seven days since the two-year border war between two of the world's poorest countries reignited in earnest, Ethiopia's armed forces have made spectacular military advances inside western Eritrea. The speed of the Ethiopian invasion, recapturing disputed territory and at the same pushing deep into Eritrea proper, has astonished many analysts. "Eritrea's army is on the run," said Colonel Atakilti Berhe, one of Ethiopia's senior commanders on the border. "We came in the way they least expected and gave them no chance to reorganise and engage us again." As many as 100,000 Eritreans have already fled across the border into neighbouring Sudan, and it is feared that the number will rise. Sudan is itself embroiled in a civil war and it is in no position to assist the recent influx of people from Eritrea."

Colonel Atakilti was waiting for a military order for the final assault to move into Asmara as other Ethiopian forces were advancing from the southern side and had reached Adi Qeyih, about 50 km south of the Eritrean capital.

But suddenly Meles Zenawi dropped the bombshell: the war has ended! Ethiopians knew he was waiting for the right time to abort Ethiopia's victory.

At the start of the war in 1998, Meles had to take a confidence-building measure to save himself from the wrath of the Ethiopian people. He had to prove that he was with the Ethiopians, and not Eritreans. He let Ethiopians win the battle (Badme, 1999), and lose the war (Algiers 2000 Agreement).

He aborted Ethiopia's victory, honored Eritrea by declaring ceasefire, and launched the establishment of The Hague Border Commission whose deliberations were entirely based on defunct, century-old colonial treaties that were designed to seal Ethiopia as a landlocked nation.

Those Ethiopian commanders who had led the blitzkrieg were ordered to withdraw their troops from occupied Eritrean territories.

"We know there will never be peace as long as Shabia [Eritrea's ruling party] remains in power," a shocked Col. Atakilti tells the reporter. "But that is the decision of our political leaders that we have no option but to respect."

While the huge forces under the command of Col. Atakilti had almost fully withdrawn from Teseney, Eritrean troops regrouped, moved back to the town, and wiped out the last part of the Ethiopian forces. The media reported that Eritrean forces defeated a retreating Ethiopian army and recaptured Teseney. The Eritreans were clearly buyoed by the morale-boosting act of their man in the Ethiopian palace.

Once he knew retreating Eritrean forces had returned, cut off and killed Ethiopian troops, Col. Atakilti ordered his army to return to Teseney. And swiftly, the Ethiopian forces routed the Eritreans, and recaptured the town again.

A military victory for any Ethiopian, but it was also slap in the face of Meles Zenawi. Upon his return to Addis, Colonel Atakilti Berhe, the hero who sent cold shivers down the spine of the enemy, was thrown into jail, and remains there to this very day, according to observers.

Are Tigrians in power? Dead wrong. Their masters are.

Though Ethiopia has been reduced to a failed state due to deliberately-crafted policies by the enemy, Ethiopian opposition groups on their part have prefered to bury their heads in the sand.

Instead of forging unity among themselves and rescuing what is left of the impoverished country, they are seen tearing each other apart. Instead of rallying for the release of the most prominent and most promising opposition leader, the 35-year-old Birtukan Mideksa, they are seen itching to take part in the bogus elections whose "winner" is already a foregone conclusion.

No wonder Meles Zenawi has told the nation that he will celebrate his silver jubilee (25 years) in power. And possibly beyond.


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